Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why I Heart Logotherapy: Thoughts on Viktor Frankl's Book and Theory

Blue Book Cover of Frankl's work
Although I have been intrigued by psychology for various years and have studied it academically, it was only about three years ago when I first encountered logotherapy. Yet Viktor Frankl’s theory turns out to be the most fascinating and effective form of therapy.

Hearing Alfried Längle, the main voice and spokesperson of current logotherapy practice, talk about his views on various topics and issues has been both a constant source of pleasure as well as a learning experience for me. I was so impressed by his lectures that I finally decided to read the quintessential work Man’s Search for Meaning by the founder of logotherapy Viktor E. Frankl.

Logotherapy, as the English title of the book underscores, is about finding personal meaning in one’s life. This form of therapy is surprisingly open-minded and open-ended as it is not limited or restricted by specific dogma. There are no pre-conceived sets of meaning and no right answers.

While psychoanalysis as a form of depth psychology is focused on digging up the past to make sense of the present and thereby manages to shed light upon the present states and formation of neurosis, logotherapy is more interested in ensuring that the person finds meaning in their lives both in the present and beyond.

As Frankl himself states, this can be achieved via three different means:

a) One can find meaning and vocation by a work or by doing a deed. This may be having a job that fulfills our sense of mission in life or be a spokesperson or activist regarding an issue that is close to our heart.

b) One can experience something or encounter someone that has deep meaning to the individual. This can be profound experiences ranging from religious beliefs and convictions to falling in love with someone special and unique. It can also be having and being devoted to a family one loves and supports with all one’s heart.  

c) One can find meaning by one’s attitude towards unavoidable suffering. In this case, one encounters suffering but instead of resigning and giving up or escaping it through different protective mechanisms, such as substance abuse or avoidance, one decides to face the suffering head-on.

Now of course, Frankl makes it clear that one should not seek out suffering per se since that would be merely masochistic. But if one is faced with intense suffering, one should retain personal responsibility and not lose sight of one’s freedom and will in the process.

Considering Frankl’s own harrowing and unspeakable personal suffering as a prisoner at concentration camps and his loss of various friends and family members, all of which is detailed in the first half of the book, this viewpoint becomes much more poignant and relevant.

Frankl himself claims that even in the most abject and horrendous of conditions, one has control over one’s attitude towards the situation. There are parts of our lives we cannot control. Life or fate may deal us bad cards, but whatever this may be, one needs to face those challenges directly and not let them distort or affect one’s personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

This may sound quite stoic in nature, but I think he takes it a step further though. When Frankl was facing the worst of human nature, he claimed that many gave up and either committed suicide or allowed their bodies and minds be ravaged by disease and death.

There were far too many who were not given a choice at all as they were killed, but even then, there was a manner of facing their imminent deaths that would make them beyond heroic as they “entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael” on their lips. In other words, although by all accounts and purposes, their death would seem futile and in vain, some would still find a sense of meaning in their unfortunate lives and their ensuing deaths.

As I was reading Frankl’s account, I was reminded of what Nelson Mandela had once said regarding his sense of freedom. Mandela claimed that although they could physically lock him up and even torture him, there was a part of him that the oppressors could never reach or alter, the feeling of freedom and justice he carried deep inside, his personal convictions.

It is easier said than done and rather idealistic one could say. Others state and have even demonstrated that one is shaped by one’s environment and that such atrocious conditions only breed hatred and contempt and bring out the worst in human nature as evidenced in studies in social psychology by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo.

And in many or most cases, this may be true. But the fact that there are exceptions shows that it is at least possible that humanity has a core that is unconditionally good and even untouched by and above the worst of external circumstances.

It is within this context of personal experience that logotherapy gains its weight and impact. Frankl says that in such a desolate and godforsaken place, there were still glimmers of hope and decency. It was especially in the direst of situations where the value and importance of art and natural beauty came to the forefront.

According to Frankl and contrary to common sense and knowledge, those who appear physically the strongest were usually the ones to give up first, while those who seemed frail and weak were more likely to survive those harsh conditions. The latter despite their appearance tended to have a richer inner life.

The dreamers, those with a rich imagination, had recourse to an inner world filled with images, sensations and vivid memories from the past and this fostered them with a sense of hope making them capable of resisting and surviving the hideous reality in front of their eyes. This strength of imagination aligned with a strong purpose in life helped many of them get through the worst kinds of suffering and to see past and through the injustices occurring to them on a moment-to-moment basis.

Moreover, Frankl makes a point of distinguishing between personal and collective guilt. In fact, Frankl claims that there are essentially two categories of people; those who were decent and those who were not. There were many people committing atrocities in the concentration camps, but there were also some who were trying to help as best as they could.

There were some commanding officers who went out of their way and even risked their lives to provide medication for the prisoners; at the same time, there were those dreaded Capos, prisoners themselves who for a bit of privilege in the form of extra rations of bread or cigarettes mistreated and abused their fellow inmates.

What it comes down to, and this is a general and dangerous fallacy, one should not collectively blame groups of people. This is a dangerous source of prejudice and racism. Whatever wrong your ancestors have done should not automatically reflect on yourself. Everyone should deal with their own personal guilt, meaning one’s misguided actions that were within one’s grasp and control.

However, even in that case, there may be at times accentuating circumstances where one wished to help people in plight but was afraid of risking one’s own life. In that sense, action would have indeed been heroic and rare, since most of us would choose safety over risk and danger.

That is not to say that there are no evil people in the world. One only needs to turn on the news to see atrocities occurring everywhere. One will encounter people with evil schemes and intention anywhere and may be even wronged and harmed by some of them on different occasions, but most of these people may be acting so because they carry an existential vacuum deep inside of them.

In fact, people who have a strong sense of responsibility towards themselves will generally not act irresponsibly towards others. In most cases, those who hurt have been or are hurt themselves in one way or another. This is quite apparent in recent studies of bullying, where the bullies often vie for social approval or rebel against pain and suffering they endure or have been enduring.

But logotherapy sees a remedy for it all. The first step would be to take control and responsibility of one’s actions. That of course presupposes a belief in free will and although psychotherapists in this field are aware of biological / genetic constraints and restrictions, they still believe in moral freedom and choice. There is a voice of conscience in every individual, no matter how small or neglected it may be.

This, in turn, makes logotherapy optimistic but not naïve. It is optimistic because it believes that any person is capable of change for the better, including criminals and evil-doers. But that decision must come from and be made by the individual themselves since no one can make you better except you yourself. Without that will and intention, any intervention or therapy would be futile. No matter how much we want to help people we care about, it won’t happen until they seek help themselves or are ready to be helped.

Logotherapy also does not take a rosy-colored view on human nature. It took Frankl to see the worst in human nature to also appreciate its best. All it comes down to is personal choice. His mission as a psychotherapist is not to provide you or fill your life with meaning but to help you define and find your own sense of meaning.

One can sense the existential influence here in that there is no clear-cut answer or set meaning to our lives. One must both define oneself and find one’s vocation and place in life. Once one finds balance and does what one is meant to do, then one has peace of mind.

For those confronted with tragedy, it would take a strong shift in will to turn it into something positive. We see it with people who accept their personal suffering and triumph by transcending it and turning it into a work of art, an exemplary life or a life filled with fruitful deeds. As such, Frankl turned his own traumatic past experiences into a beautiful and transcending form of psychotherapy.  

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Psychomagic or How Alejandro Jodorowsky Healed my Life

French book cover of Psychomagie
Here’s something I surely did not expect to happen: the director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain and the would-be director of a mind-blowing Dune adaptation Alejandro Jodorowsky would help me heal my life. 

Now I do not claim to say that he changed my mind or got me to see the light singlehandedly (there were various other conscious and unconscious life-long processes at work) but I can firmly state that it is with his help that all the myriad pieces have finally come together and clicked so-to-speak.

But to provide much-needed context, let us rewind to the dawn of this year. 2017 is a year I sometimes jokingly but half-earnestly call a veritable crapfest. It ranks high among one of my most uncomfortable years to date. I am not (only) talking about the world at its current state with all its political turmoil constantly and incessantly swirling around us but more about my own mini-world, the micro-fabric of my existence, also known as my personal life.

To put it bluntly, it was not good (but of course it goes without saying that it could have been worse). My year began with gum / teeth pain on two separate locations of my mouth, both of which had become infected and had to be extracted, as a result.

It is painful to lose one’s teeth; as a teenager I had to endure numerous extractions among which there were four adult teeth that needed to be sacrificed in order to make room for the other ones; yet now, there appeared two other much more visible gaps in my mouth (but thank God they are on the less noticeable back-row sections).

It was during the same time perhaps caused by my infection or perhaps even being the very cause of my infection that my blood sugar skyrocketed making me prediabetic / diabetic since then (the marking line between the two I find rather confusing). That on its own would have been enough to make my hair stand on end but add to that problems in the form of unjust treatment at work, all of which culminated in my loss of extended health benefits (ironically when I needed them most).

This dangerous cocktail sent both physical and mental health down the drain. This all-out stress was hard to bear, and my sleep took a temporary dive; there were days where I had to function on a few hours of sleep and in some extreme cases with no sleep at all! It was with immense discipline, patience and stamina that I managed to get through my tasks successfully despite all the storms around me both within and without. I hung in there like a lost and dazed kitten praying and yearning for better times.

It was the advice of the wise Tarot (which I have been duly and diligently using and practicing for almost three decades now) that gave me strength through these somber and anxiety-inducing days as I was promised better times ahead; the cards spoke of a time where I would be better able to handle my stressors and get (more or less) regular sleep. They also told me that I would be vindicated and that with patience I would be able to right the wrongs that had occurred to me at work and would, as a result, achieve a peaceful mind.

This did indeed happen later this year and helped me to overcome and clear the hurdles and the harmful gossip that had accumulated over time. It was a profound sigh of relief. I felt much better overall but had also made the conscious decision and promise to take my health more seriously and more firmly into my own hands.

I started to portion my meals, walk almost daily for close to an hour, exercise in the form of dance (don’t ask) and over the past few months I managed to shed some five kilos. It is a drop in the ocean, but it is at least something to hold onto and to continue over the next foreseeable future.

On one of my semi-idle days (which was rare but I had an unexpected break between two classes) I ventured into the main municipal library and browsed through the French section. I was looking for the essays of Michel de Montaigne, some of them I had studied during my grad years with great interest and I felt that they could help me to improve my posts in one way or another.

But I did not find that specific book. Instead by sheer accident or coincidence (in neither of which I actually believe in), I stumbled upon (or rather were guided to) the book Manuel de Psychomagie by none other than Alexandro (French spelling of his first name) Jodorowsky.

Now that certainly looked interesting! A few pages in, my eyes fell on the cursive unofficial subtitle, Tips to Heal your Life and I thought of giving it a try. I hesitated at first because my impression of Jodorowsky had been that of a brilliant director who was also a nutcase (the two of which, more often than not, end up going together). But somewhere in the back of my mind, I did recall that he was an ardent believer and practitioner of Tarot cards and that swayed and steered my mind favorably in his direction.

When I started reading this book, I was more than impressed, to put it mildly. It is like reading a psychoanalytic self-help book but on acid. I must admit here that although I have admiration and a certain fondness for psychoanalysis, I had never taken it completely seriously.

One thing we often overlook is that Sigmund Freud was not only a psychiatrist but also a neurologist. He knew about the physical and biological processes even though his form of analysis is often labeled as not fully grounded in science or even haphazard; in short, it is often regarded as a (mere) creative endeavour and sometimes put on the same footing as astrology, for example.

The stereotypes and some random quotes picked out here and there and the (seemingly) rampant obsession on themes of sexuality running through his theories have not helped in this matter to make his theories resonate as much as they should. But I think that this book by Jodorowsky helped me break through the barriers of my own ignorance and prejudices vis-à-vis this type of therapy.

In fact, Jodorowsky uses psychoanalysis as a psychological and philosophical starting point towards self-realization and then takes it a step further. As you may know, psychoanalysts usually dig up the person’s past and scan for childhood traumas; this in turn would help or at least facilitate the clients to shed light upon and re-examine their neuroses or issues at hand.

This can be achieved in various ways, either through free association (the client on the couch spontaneously talks about whatever comes to their mind) or a sleep journal or even vivid and lingering memories that resurface from the past.

The main reason why there is so much focus on childhood is because it is one of the most impressionable stages of one’s life. At that point, we are at our most fragile state of being depending not only physically on our survival but also mentally. These memories (sensations, impressions, thoughts, experiences) are then engraved in our mind and play a significant role in our unconscious.

The unconscious then is really our basement, a repository in which we accumulate and keep track of our most cherished as well as most despised thoughts and feelings. Our consciousness, this would be the executive acting agent referred to as the ego, will try to protect us especially from the negative stuff; the ego will attempt to keep traumas down there in the basement for as long as possible.

However, as we all know from daily experience, repression does not solve the problem. These unwanted thoughts fester and grow in the unconscious and will spring up unexpectedly, either in dreams as nightmares or in the form of neurotic behavior.

Psychoanalysis helps to give insight to the client and unearth these feelings that then explain why one has certain phobias. This could be, for example, a fear of being criticized or judged or of consistently choosing the wrong partner in one’s romantic life. The answer lies and is rooted more often than not in one’s unconscious.

But this is where psychoanalysis would generally stop. You may realize that your abhorrent and abnormal fear of being criticized goes back to your childhood due to steadily nagging parents or that the fear of losing a job equals, at least in your unconscious parts of your mind, that of losing approval, hence the love and affection of your parents.

Once you realize this, you will re-frame your perspective and see everything in a new light. This new way of seeing and understanding the world will help you towards healing from those traumas and to live a more authentic and less stressful and less neurotic life.

But what Jodorowsky proposes, and this is where the magic and his creativity bordering on surrealism come into play, that realization is not enough but actions are needed to resolve these issues. Let us say, you have hatred for your boss – which is in turn a reflection and your own projection of a parent - you need to do something about that.

The good news is that the unconscious is usually satisfied with symbols or symbolic actions. Thus, to vent your anger against the source (boss or parent), you do not need to resort to beating them up (something that is never advisable) but it would suffice to throw darts on their photos. The photograph is a symbol of the person, but the unconscious will feel relieved because it often confuses the symbol with its actual representation, that is, the map with the territory.

Put differently, a psycho-magical act is one in which we heal our traumas via symbolic action. If you find yourself too attached to your mother, for instance, you can tie yourself to her with a (preferably silver, the color of femininity) ribbon and while pronouncing that you are grateful for all her care over the years but wish to become free and independent from now on, you will cut the umbilical cord. The accompanying words are equally important as any magician knows that Abracadabra is mysterious enough to add effect to the magical trick while prayers are utterances and words aimed for the ears of the Almighty.

For each issue, there is a symbolic (and healing) response and the book is filled with many examples. Some of them sound outrageous and may appear offensive for some (keep in mind this is Jodorowsky we are talking about) but others are more than useful. In this way, he proposes a symbolic cure or fix for anything from shyness to jealousy to alcoholism and to even having problems at work.  

The difference between white or black magic and psychomagic lies in its focus. While the first two usually are done with the intention of influencing another person or a certain outcome outside of one’s reach, psychomagic focuses on the given individual and his or her surroundings. In other words, the decisions and actions are your responsibility and lie in your own hands, so psychomagic cannot merely make things happen for you.

For instance, you cannot make somebody fall in love with you or you cannot make your boss promote you against their will, but you can overcome your own shyness and other things holding you back to make a strong impression on the beloved or your boss. In this sense, it is very similar to the practice of Tarot, where the cards do not say what will happen in the future but rather what you should do to have the outcome you desire. There is a significant difference in terms of locus of control here.

Let me give a couple of examples taken from the book to demonstrate this. On the passage on how to regain trust in your own self, that is to repair the negative self-esteem you have, Jodorowsky suggests wearing dark metal glasses and walking around the block three successive times. This will literally show you that you can trust yourself!

One of my favorite pieces of advice pertains to kleptomania. Jodorowsky claims that the desire to steal objects is fueled by the need to confess one’s deed and may be due to an unresolved and harmful case of sibling rivalry; one wishes to steal outside objects to win back the affection one’s supposed rival receives.

The solution? Print out a card that states your nick-name used during your childhood and identifies you as a "child thief." In it you also say that you could have chosen to steal this given object but refrained from doing so. You have succeeded and now ask the person to love you. Then physically put this card next to one specific object you had the desire to steal.

Another one I quite liked was directed towards those who had their childhood "stolen" by either parents or certain circumstances or both. Jodorowsky then advises the client to take a sizable amount of money and go to the casino to lose it all. You cannot leave the casino until all the money is gone; if you happen to win, keep on playing until you go home empty-handed.    

One of the most poetic ones is regarding how to console a sad child. He says that one should make a doll with a marked sad face. You tell your child that this is his or her sorrow and you will all do different fun activities together, have ice-cream, go to the movie theater etc. Once the day is done, you will put helium balloons on this doll and send it to the skies. You will say to your child: “There goes your sorrow. The angels will take care of it. Now you can be happy on your part.”

One of the surprising things I also learnt is the fact that names matter more than we think. For example, if you have the name of a famous writer or composer, it creates a lot of subconscious tension, especially if you are yourself involved in the creative arts. In that way, you will feel an immense burden and pressure to do well but will not able to match the quality of work that your name represents.

The same applies to names, such as Mary, which is symbolic of the Virgin in Catholic belief and it creates not only the pressure on the person to be virtually a saint in life but will even extend itself to her child that needs to be perfect, namely, the child of God!

This book has also helped me in terms of parenting. We as parents often put undue pressure on our children with ominous warnings. If you do not study, you will become homeless; or you need to have a good job or else you will not be able to have, let alone provide for, your family, or worse, when we tell our children they will not be successful in their desired professions.

The problem is that these predictions could (and often do) become self-fulfilling prophecies! Instead, rephrase your words and reward the good behaviors in lieu of badmouthing the ones you do not approve of. But overall, one should be as open-minded as possible and give our children room to grow and live their dreams.

In sum, what this book has showed me is that my fear of failing in my endeavors harks back to a time where I was told all the things I would not be able to do or accomplish supposedly. I had a hard time dealing with criticism; whether it was from home, my wife, or from work, a supervisor, it was nothing but the echo of my parents chastising me and setting me up for future failure.

Yet the most beautiful thing about psychomagic is that once one realizes this, one should not (and often does not) hold a grudge but one understands and forgives. Because the perpetrators themselves - those who hurt must have been feeling hurt themselves - might not have realized the pain they inflicted upon others, be it their children or their fellow human beings.

In that sense, with realization plus action that promotes overall well-being, one can achieve true healing. In fact, when you heal yourself, you are ready to heal others, and in turn this comes back to you more than tenfold. Thank you, Alejandro Jodorowsky from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful book and this unique and wonderfully odd but effective psychological practice!    

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An Evening and Master Class with Atom Egoyan

Poster of UBC Event
Most unfortunately, I could not attend the annual Quinn Memorial lecture at UBC this year! The main reason was problems with scheduling as I would have had to cancel my classes in addition to finding a suitable substitute and all this would have been even more work than simply going to work. My apologies for that and hopefully I can re-arrange my commitments so that I can attend, ruminate and blog about this wonderful event come next year.

In lieu of this, I had the opportunity to attend another UBC event, the Master Class with renowned Canadian film director Atom Egoyan. When I first received the email of the upcoming talk, I did not hesitate and bought a ticket immediately. I marked the day on our kitchen calendar many days in advance. I could not believe that I would not only be in the same room with this esteemed director but also perhaps be given the chance to ask a question, shake his hand and get a selfie and / or an autograph. The latter I realize is more or less passé these days, a circumstantial relic of the non-technological past.

As it turned out, I arrived early that evening. This allowed me to get a rather good seat; yet to my slight dismay, the first and half of the second row were already reserved. As this was a special opportunity for film grad students to see and meet the iconic Canadian film-maker, they were immediately and conveniently assigned the best seats of the house, so-to-speak. Notwithstanding, my seat was not too bad as the (hastily taken) photo above can demonstrate for our intents and purposes here.

The evening began with a couple of (redundant?) speeches and a showcase of the centennial celebration of UBC with a brief video of some sorts. My focus throughout was on the man sitting in front of me who was close enough to be poked. Yes, this actually crossed my mind! I considered it something one could cross off one’s eternal bucket list, namely to poke a Canadian legend. Believe me, at one point I did lean forward with my hand still idly lying beside me.

What would be the worst that could happen to me? I would sincerely apologize to him and explain the reason for my poke. Depending on his level of humility and sense of humor, he might even smile or perhaps use it as an anecdote at another of his upcoming talks. I would be indelibly entwined in his memory as the man who poked him at UBC.

Now why would I go to such length and effort of poking Atom Egoyan? Let me tell you that he is among my Top 40 directors of all time. It may not sound like much, but you should see the list of these world-renowned directors. Exotica (1994) was my introduction to his oeuvre and what an introduction it was indeed! That movie blew me away and I would say it is tied with Arcand’s Jesus of Montréal (1989) for best Canadian movie I have ever seen!

Furthermore, I quite enjoyed his Adjuster (1991), a film that was decidedly different from other types of films I had seen. Felicia’s Journey (1999) impressed me as well but not so much due to its erratic and rushed ending (that is, if memory serves me right) and his most celebrated film to date The Sweet Hereafter (1997) failed to impress me much. Ever since then, for one reason or another, his more recent movies fell under the radar; in addition, I had read movie critics feeling let down by this undoubtedly talented director. Yet my most recent film of his was Remember (2015) with Christopher Plummer, a film that was expertly made but proved to be problematic on different levels. One day I shall put my thoughts on it in writing in the form of a movie review.

Yet back to the evening and sorry for the diversion. To make a long story short, I did not poke. He was then (finally!) invited to the podium and delivered his speech. It started off on a notably false note for me. He alluded to the sexual allegations that are haunting Hollywood these days and that he felt disgusted about it. Of course, I completely agreed with him but unfortunately, there seemed to be no connection or relation with his actual talk, which focused on his upbringing and his experiences of film-making. I felt that he used current events as a hook but one that did not lead anywhere but was used merely to make himself look and appear good. In other words, a type of Ego trip (coincidentally the first three letters of his chosen last name).

Yet over the course of his talk, he did win me over with some of his personal anecdotes as well as observations on the task of film-making, some of which I will aboard here. First off, he talked about his upbringing in Victoria as a very young Egyptian-born Armenian who spoke not a word of English. That resonated with me because I had gone through similar experiences where I was thrown into a country and culture without having any target language skills to get by with.

In his case, he had at least some, if merely feeble and symbolic support from his father. It was he who told the kindergarten teacher that should his son utter a particular phrase in their language, it meant he was hungry; any other phrase simply meant he needed to go to the washroom. Yet when young Atom verbalised his need to go to the washroom, he was given a sandwich instead. This not only confused the young boy but made him aware and averted him of the delicacy and fragility of communication.

We may think we have the means to communicate but that may not be the case. Misunderstandings abound or lurk around the corner. This would happen too when he would talk about his ideas for films or literary adaptations. At times people would say they understand, but he knew that they did not. At other times, writers would disagree with him until they saw the finished product, as was the case with both Felicia’s Journey and The Sweet Hereafter. To his credit, it must be very difficult to give someone a clear picture of the contents of one’s mind, so, more often than not, he would let the images speak for themselves once the film was made.

Egoyan explained that his reason for adapting other people’s materials was because he himself did not have access to those worlds and experiences. Then we would take their materials and adapt them in his idiosyncratic ways, which might or might not resonate with the original author. Film adaptations of literary works are a tricky subject and it is about both preserving the essence of the original work but also adding one’s unique and visual touch to the content. 

Either way, what this showed me was that film-making was a lonely process. Writing certainly is as writers spend most of their time alone producing sentences that are stitched together carefully and then finally presented as a fixed piece of work. In film, it seems that although you are constantly surrounded by people as there are many others involved in the film-making process, in the end, it is an equally lonely endeavor. Although he works closely with actors, some of them prefer not to talk much, as was the case with Kevin Bacon, according to the director. All and all, the only one who knows where all of this is going and how it will all look once put together will only be in the mind’s eye of the director. Yet once all the elements combine and come together, the finished product can then be shared with others.

One of the things that strikes me about films as well is the use of music and I was glad but not particularly surprised that Egoyan himself relished that process. It is often the final but oh so important touch to the film. It is the carefully selected bits of soundtrack that give the film its necessary depth and often identity. That is an important part of film-making; the other would be to imbue your characters with empathy. That way stories can resonate with us and even so-called “cold” film-makers like Michael Haneke show empathy even for dubious or downright despicable characters.

The evening ended with a Q & A session. My question would have been about his relationship with technology. Although technology represents an important part of his films, it is also portrayed as an alienating effect. I wanted to know how he felt about this himself. He alluded to some of it as he told us, with some visible regret, that the old and intimate experience of sitting in a dark room with strangers and seeing the actions projected on a screen was slowly dying out. Instead, we stream movies. That has led to an explosion of content and although it is often of very good quality, it is too much to consume for any single individual.

I decided to postpone my question for a little later in person. We had been given a ticket that would be converted to a drink of our choice, for me it was an unexpected but very welcome glass of red wine. At the reception, I literally hung around in the vicinities of Atom Egoyan who was approached by many attendees with numerous questions and comments.

I stood there patiently, waiting for him to notice me. But unfortunately, people would butt in or slightly shove me to the side. But no matter, I had the iron resolve to abide my time. I was going to ask him my particular question about technology and end it on an ironic note with a selfie of the two of us. There! Finally, he took note of me and raised his eyebrows and walked half a step in my direction before he was pulled over to the side by one of the organizers. There was thereafter another photo-op with certain people after which I was immediately forgotten again.

After some more futile waiting, I decided to leave the scene. I had seen and heard enough so that I could sit down and type away for a blog post. It was not overall as personally satisfying as I would have liked but then again it also reminded me that in the end, even film-makers, who are the equivalent of celebrities for me, are human after all.

Although I appreciated Egoyan’s sense of humour and his (apparent) modesty, in the end I realized hat even great filmmakers are human. As is the case with any artist or celebrity, we impose upon them qualities they may or may not have, and whether we realize this or not, we put them on pedestals. I was glad to have seen and met this great director, but at the same time it slightly chipped away some of my adoration I had for him. After all, even the great turn out to be made of flesh and blood and not that different from the rest of us and in the end, we end up feeling slightly conned and deceived.